Ladakh is popularly known as "The land of Numerous Passes", "The Land of Mystic Lamas", "The Broken Moon" and "The Last Shangri-La". It is a land like no other, situated in Indian Himalaya in Jammu and Kashmir State.
Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Greater Himalaya and the Karakoram, and it lies transversely two others, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range.
Leh is one of the favorite tourist destinations located in the northernmost part of India. Lapped in the snow-covered fringes of the Himalayas, Leh has been the center of Tibetan-Buddhist Culture since ages. Its colorful Gompa have attracted the devout Buddhists from all over the globe. Besides, it is also a favorite hiking locale and is known for some of the best hikes in the country.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert plateau, once covered by an extensive lake system, the vestiges of which still exists on its South-East plateau of Rupshu and Chushul - in drainage basins with evocative names like Tso-Moriri, Tsokar and Pangong Lake. With Dras, Zanskar and the Suru Valley on the Himalayan's Northern flank.
Information for Travelers
When to come?
Ladakh is open for tourists throughout the year, while the best period for the cultural tour is between April and October ending. For adventure tours June to October is the suitable period. Most of the trekking routes are closed after November due to snow at high passes except the Liker to Khaltsey trek. The best period for Chadar-trek (frozen river trek) to Zanskar is from January to mid-March.
The festivals of Stok, Matho and New Year take place in winter and it is possible to visit monasteries in winters. There are few hotels and guest houses with heating facilities in Leh that provide accommodation in winter.
Ladakh is spread over an area of 97,000 Sq. KM and lies on an average of 3500 meters above the sea level. Ladakh has a population of around 1, 70,000.
Temperature in summer (June to September) can touch 35 c and minus 30 c in late December and January. Annual rainfall is 6''
Visa and Permit: Tourist can reach Leh with normal Indian tourist visa and does not require any special visa or permit. However, the foreign tourists are required to register themselves at Drass, Rumtse and Sarchu if they are travelling by road. Those travelling by air get themselves registered at the airport. The tourist, both foreign and domestic are required to get permit for restricted areas like Tsomoriri, Tsokar, Pangong Lakes, Dhahanu and Nubra Valley, Which can obtained through registered travel agencies.
Currency, Money Exchange & credit Card:
The local currency is Indian Rupees. There are authorized agencies for money exchange for USD or Euro traveler cheque and cash. You should insist for a receipt, which will help you in reconverting the money whenever you desire. Credit Cards are accepted by major Travel Agents, hotels and antique shops on paying 2.5% service charge.
Time difference: The Indian Standard time (IST) is as per the calculation done in the Allahabad city. IST is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of London, 4 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Paris and about 10 hours and 30 minutes behind the New York City.
How to Reach
The Indian airlines, Jet airways and Air Deccan operate regularly between New Delhi to Leh. The Indian Airlines has its flight operates twice a week between Leh and Jammu. It also operates Srinagar-Leh once in a week. Jet airways and Air Deccan flights operate only between Leh and Delhi.
Road: The Srinagar Leh road remains open from early June to November. And the Manali-Leh road remains open from early June to mid–October.
What to bring?
Clothing: The temperature in midsummer is pleasant requiring T-shirt and shorts in the daytime but in evening temperature drips and you need jacket or pullover. While trekking above 4000m, you need warm cloths. Sometimes there is rain or snow in early June and August. Therefore, you need wind sheeter or raincoat.
Shoes: Good waterproof shoes are needed while trekking and extra Pair of shoes or slippers is useful while crossing the rivers.
Ruck Sack: Two ruck sacks are needed. One small handbag for your camera, water bottle, pack lunch and a space for jacket. Bigger one to carrying clothes with extra layer to be safe from rain and dust.
Sleeping Bag: Summer sleeping bag is enough if you are travelling between mid June to mid September and warm winter sleeping bag is required if you are travelling between mid September to mid June. You can also rent very good sleeping bags from trekking companies in Leh.
Avoid Acute Mountain Sickness: Acute mountain sickness can occur to any one at an altitude above 10,000 ft. above sea level, therefore, make it sure to take complete rest on the day of arrival.
Accommodation: There are hundreds of family run hotel and Guest Houses in Leh to suit every pocket.
Food: All the hotel and restaurants serve Local Ladakhi, Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, Italian and continental cuisines.
Street Hawkers: Generally there are no street hawkers in Leh Town, but at time you might come across people in the street trying to lure you to their shops. You should discourage such practices, it may cause inconvenience to you later.
Telecommunication facility: Telephone & Fax facilities are available in Leh, Padum, Kargil and Nubra Valley.
Postal Service: Foreign airmail rate is Rs 15 for a letter, which is not exceeding 20 grams in weight for Australia, Japan, Europe and America. For aerogramme Rs 8.50 and Post Card Rs 8/-.
Internet Service: Internet and e-mail services are available in the Leh town.
Clicking portraits of interesting people: it would be advisable to ask before clicking a picture of individual or even group of people. However, a tourist should refuse to give money if asked for.
Drinking Water: It would be convenient to carry a water purification set with you on a trek. It is even safe to use boiled fresh water during the trek.
The Dzomsa Laundry in the main market sell high pressure boiled water for Rs 7 per liter. You can bring your water bottle or container to get it filled with the chemical-free safe drinking water at the Dzomsa Laundry.
Plastic Bags: Ladakh is perhaps the only region in India where the use of plastic bag is officially banned. So, the plastic carry bags that you see in other parts of India are not seen in Leh. However, market goods in readymade plastics packages are there. A trekker should ensure that the biodegradable camping wastes are buried properly and burn the non biodegradable ones before they move further.
National Park: All the trekking routes fall under the sensitive wildlife habitat area including the Hemis National Park. In fact Ladakh is a place where villages are part of the vast wilderness that harbours rich but sparse wildlife. Some of the species are even endangered ones. Therefore, one should be extremely careful about not causing any disturbance to the vulnerable wildlife habitat while on trek.
Hiring Taxi from outside Leh: Hired taxis from outside Ladakh are not allowed to be used for local sightseeing and jeep-safari. You can book the non-local taxis only to drop you at Leh or for your return trip while leaving Ladakh. You have to hire local taxis for local sightseeing and jeep safaris. However, there is no restriction for those traveling in their own private cars.
Places to see in Leh
Leh: Capital of Ladakh, Leh has been traditional and important junction on the famous Silk Route of the antiquities. It has enjoyed close trade relations with Central Asia.
Shanti Stupa: Japanese Stupas made for world peace, sets picturesquely on the hilltop above Leh.
Leh Palace: This 17th century Singee Palace dominates Leh town.
Hall of Fame
is a glorious museum constructed by Indian army. You can see biographies of eminent defense personalities, images and weapons used during Kargil war, Siachen and its heroes and their daily instruments and lifestyle of Ladakhi people.
Places to see around Leh
Hemis Gonpa: Hemis Gonpa is considered as the largest and richest monastery in Ladakh. The famous annual festival day called “Hemis Tsechu” has been declared as the state holiday.
Shey Palace: 15 Kms. south of Leh, Shey was the seat of power of the King of Ladakh. And Three-storey statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is only of its kind in the region.
Stok Palace and Museum: Stok Palace was constructed after the Ladakh lost to Zorawar Singh in 19th century. At present Royal family resides here at Stok. Stok Palace has museum of Royal dresses, Kings Throne and Thankas.
Thiksey Gonpa: Thiksey Gonpa is famous for its three-storey Maitriya Buddha's statue and the photogenic view of the Gonpa, which looks alike Potala Palace of Lhasa in Tibet.
Alchi Choskor: Alchi monastery was founded by the great translator Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo in 11th century AD. The exquisite murals of Alchi Choskor are world famous and it is said that the artists were specially brought from Kashmir.
Lamayuru Gonpa: Lamayuru Gonpa is the oldest monastery in Ladakh, which is around 125 Kms from Leh on Leh-Srinagar Highway. Surrounded by picturesque moonscape Lamayuru Gonpa belongs to Drigung sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Around Nubra Valley
Nubra means “Valley of flowers” situated on Pakistan Border across Khardongla Pass 18,380 ft, the highest motorable road in the world.
Deskit: Administrative headquarters of Nubra valley, and offers variety of accommodation to travelers. It has a monastery atop a hillock from where you can also enjoy panoramic view of the valley. Deskit sand dunes and double-humped camel ride reminds of silk route tradition.
Sumur: Sumur is a village across the Shayok River along lush green meadow. Samstanling monastery of Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism with historical and religious significance attracts both devotees and tourists.
Panamik: Famous for hotspring and it was a major stopover for Caravans of Silk Route before continuing further journey towards Leh.
Changthang: Tsomoriri Lake is located in Changthang approx. 240 Kms. from Leh. The Lake is around 28 Kms. long and around 8 Kms wide at an altitude of 14,000 ft, above the sea level. It harbors many species of migratory birds including Brahmini Duck, Rudy Shelduck etc. The Korzok village settlement with a monastery close to the lake has its own appeal.
Tsokar: A twin lake Tsokar and Tarsaphuk tso form the part of a wide picturesque valley with many wildlife including migratory birds, wild asses (Kyangs) and Changpa nomads with thousands of livestock including sheep, goats and yaks live in their tents around the lakes in the vast expanse of pasture.
Pangong: Pangong is approx. 140 Kms. away from Leh, situated at an altitude of 14,000 ft. above the sea level. The Pangong Lake is around 71 Kms. long but only 25% of the Lake is in India rest falls in the share of China. The vast and serene lake displays a spectacular color variation from dark blue to turquoise green during the day.
Kargil: Kargil, headquarter of Kargil district, is the central meeting point between Srinagar, Leh and Zanskar with almost equal distances from all sides. Shia Muslim populated town has hotels and guest houses for tourists traveling between Leh, Zanskar and Srinagar.
Drass: Located on Leh-Srinagar highway is second coldest inhabited place on earth. A magnificent view of Tiger Hill can be enjoyed from the main road. It has memorial museum of Kargil Heros and 10th century rock carved Buddhist statues.
Suru Valley: A lush green valley on the way to Zanskar with Shia population is famous for magnificent closer view of Nun Kun glacier peaks and giant rock carved statue of Buddha.
Zanskar: Zanskar is most isolated region of Ladakh, situated in the Kargil district of Ladakh region, approx. 430 Kms. away from Leh Town. Large number of Buddhist monasteries such as Karsha, Phuktal, Zongkhul, Stongdey, Sani and Bardan etc. and the interesting folklores, myths and startling natural beauties attract thousands of tourists to this land.